Journal of Undergraduate Research


animal model, HIV-2, effective immune response


Life Sciences


Microbiology and Molecular Biology


Human Immunodeficiency Virus (HIV) attacks and destroys the cells of the immune system necessary to mounting an effective immune response to successfully fight off infection. Unchecked, an HIV infection leads to a gradual deterioration of the immune system, giving rise to many opportunistic infections not normally seen in people with a functioning immune system. There are two subtypes of HIV: HIV-1, which accounts for the most HIV infections worldwide, and HIV-2, which is most commonly seen in West Africa and countries with strong socioeconomic ties to West Africa, such as France, Portugal, Spain, Angola, Mozambique, and Brazil (1). There is, however, an increasing number of cases of HIV-2 in the United States, Europe, and India. In 2011, there was an estimated 1-2 million people infected with HIV-2; it has been estimated that HIV-2 now accounts for 4.5% of HIV infections (2). Clinically, HIV-2 is important because the virus is intrinsically resistant to many of the anti-retroviral treatments (ART) that are used when treating HIV-1 (1). There are cases of concomitant infection with HIV-1 and HIV-2, and only the HIV-1 infection is treated, still allowing the HIV-2 infection to progress (3). Because of its lower incidence rate among the HIV-positive population, there has not been much research done in developing novel treatments for HIV-2. Even among treatments that may be useful in preventing Acquired Immunodeficiency Syndrome (AIDS), these treatments have demonstrated varying success rates due to naturally-occurring genetic polymorphisms in the viral genome (1). Additionally, due to a lack of large observational studies and randomized treatments, there is not a generalized consensus about when to begin treatment, or which treatments to use for an infection of HIV-2 before it progresses to causing advanced immunodeficiency (6). So little research has been done on HIV-2 that there is not even an accepted animal model aside from non-human primates in which to conduct HIV-2 studies. Developing an animal model that is not prohibitively expensive, as doing research on monkeys is, on which researchers could study HIV-2 would be useful in determining the differences in how HIV-2 infection progresses to AIDS, assist in drug development, allow for identification of which coreceptors HIV-2 uses to infect cells of the immune system, and help researchers develop the most useful treatment combinations with which to treat HIV-2 infection. Previous research in our lab has indicated humanized mice to be an excellent animal model in which to study HIV-1 infection and progression to AIDS. We hypothesize that humanized mice infected with HIV-2 will also show symptoms of AIDS, allowing for more research on the pathogenesis and development of AIDS from HIV-2. Our project will develop an animal model that can successfully maintain an HIV-2 infection that will be predicative of HIV-2 pathogenesis and treatment options in humans.

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